More US Companies Aim Advertising at Asian-Americans

By Jonathan Burton, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 1991 | Go to article overview
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More US Companies Aim Advertising at Asian-Americans


Jonathan Burton, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


FOR many United States companies, marketing products and services directly to Asian-Americans seems as difficult and unknown as selling to Asia itself. But some major corporations instead see Asian-Americans as dynamic and affluent, and they are appealing to them with carefully crafted advertising campaigns.

Consumer giants including AT&T, Colgate-Palmolive, Metropolitan Life Insurance, and Citicorp are spending increasing amounts of time and money to address Asian customers - especially Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese.

These companies have gone to a handful of specialized advertising agencies, entrusting them to create an identity and demand for their products within this insular, yet heterogeneous, community.

One look at recent demographic studies shows why Asian America has become so attractive to corporate America. The group's population jumped from 3.5 million to 7.3 million during the 1980s, according to US Census figures. The number is expected to grow to 10 million by the end of the decade.

Furthermore, a high proportion of Asian-Americans are college graduates. They make good money. Their average annual income of $38,450 easily tops the $31,231 that Caucasian Americans brought home on average last year.

Perhaps of prime importance, most are newcomers, with little loyalty to any one brand. They also show a desire, common among immigrants, to blend into their adopted culture while honoring traditional beliefs and customs.

"Asian-Americans, after moving to this country, have to make an adjustment," observes Joseph Lam, a partner in L3 Advertising, a New York agency that has developed Asian market campaigns for Colgate-Palmolive, Metropolitan Life, and MCI Communications. "They have a strong inner need to be accepted. Any marketer that extends good will or gives an indication that they welcome Asians' business will have a very good first impression."

The question for US companies is how to do so effectively. Everette Dennis, executive director of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, notes that Asian Americans are a difficult target. "They want to be part of the mainstream, and have their culture recognized," he explains.

Because Asian America is far from a collective culture, advertising agencies pay particular attention to individual ethnic backgrounds in their ads.

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